Lighting Techniques: All the Things you can do with One Speedlight

Apr 9, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

Lighting Techniques: All the Things you can do with One Speedlight

Apr 9, 2014

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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I have encountered many people that think they are very limited because they only had one light (usually it is one speedlight), and I always tell them that most of my photographs are taken using a single light; From portraits to product shots. To put my money where my mouth is, I am sharing all those photos and tips – all using only using one speedlight.

all-the-things-1-speedlight

Why use one light, you ask?  There are many reasons:

  • It’s very portable
  • It’s super fast to set up, obviously faster to setup than using multiple lights.
  • Less light means less money spent on lights, so if you are just starting out, and can only invest little money in lights, you’re covered.

Aside from a speedlight and a camera, you would only need one more gadget for this tutorial: There is only one thing that you might need for the this tutorial – you’d need a way to sync your speedlight with your camera. There are a couple of methods to do this, but the easiest way is by using wireless radio triggers. And a softbox (like the Apollo) for some of the fancier set ups.

Here are a couple of photos of some of the things you can do just with one light. I’m gonna start this article by showing the things you can do inside the studio, there are so many different lighting you can do with just one light, just by the controlling the direction of your light.

Starting with the simplest photo which is a basic setup: the light is set light 45 degrees from the subject (that would be your normal starting point when shooting a portrait).

My speedlight was thru a softbox 45 degrees from the subject but for this shot I used a lower power on my speedlight so that I could shoot a wider aperture and get a shallow dof
My speedlight was thru a softbox 45 degrees from the subject, but for this shot I used a lower power on my speedlight so that I could shoot a wider aperture and get a shallow Depth of Field

Net up, I am upping the complexity and using the strobe ‘double duty’. For this type of lighting place the subject really close to the background. Again, set the light 45 degrees towards the subject, but feather the light so most of it hits the background. (feathering the light means letting just the spill of the light hit your subject).

As you can see at this shot, I used the shadow of the softbox and the shadow of the subject to create this kind of lighting using feathered light.
As you can see at this shot, I used the shadow of the softbox and the shadow of the subject to create this kind of lighting using feathered light.

Here is another photo taken using only one light – a one light shot using the shadow of the softbox to create a gradient effect on the background.

Using one light gives very dramatic lighting to your subject
Using one light gives very dramatic lighting to your subject

Another dramatic lighting shot you can do is place your light directly on top of your subject.

Speedlight thru a softbox is boomed directly above the subject
Speedlight thru a softbox is boomed directly above the subject
Light directly above the subject
Light directly above the subject

Also almost all of my outdoor shots are done by using just one light. Remember? One light is very portable, and it’s easier to travel light. It is also great for doing street photography because you can simply hand hold your speedlight while shooting.

Street Photography while using one speedlight
Street Photography while using one speedlight
For this whole street photography set I used a CTO gel on the speedlight and tungsten white balance
For this whole street photography set I used a CTO gel on the speedlight and tungsten white balance
A very quick shoot using one speedlight near the local train station
A very quick shoot using one speedlight near the local train station
Underneath an underpass
Underneath an underpass

but portraits is not it – you can also do amazing product and still life shots still using only one light.

Here is a minimalistic shot of a Rolleiflex using one light and a granite tile hack.

"Less is More"
“Less is More”

Also my very first article here on DIYP was just using one light (though with multiple exposures)

Starbucks Shot
Still one light, only playing with Glass.

One Light Glass
Snooting your speedlight can also create a nice spot on look

Put a diy honeycomb on my speedlight to create the spot
Put a DIY honeycomb on my speedlight to create the spot and used wallpaper for the background

To end this article and ultimate Selfie shot using a softbox and I placed a black cloth in the middle to create this catchlight effect

Catchlight

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Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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13 responses to “Lighting Techniques: All the Things you can do with One Speedlight”

  1. Stefan Kohler Avatar
    Stefan Kohler

    Granite tiles… damn… :D
    Amazon – thank you.

  2. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    Great reminder that its not how may tools you have in your bag, but how smart you are when using them.

    1. Snix Avatar
      Snix

      too bad i am shitty with flashes :P and i dont get so much opportunity to practice it on humans :(

      1. Canon_2015 Avatar
        Canon_2015

        no worries, its like a riding a bike, some times once you are a strobist, its hard to go back with out flash, i almost had to learn to use natural light again

  3. Mateusz Jelinski Avatar
    Mateusz Jelinski

    Martin Cissek

  4. Brian Ward Avatar
    Brian Ward

    Loved this – you get gear envy sometimes but seeing what just one speedlite can do brings you back to basics. Cheers!

  5. Edren Cawit Avatar
    Edren Cawit

    simply stunning…a simple reminder dat wd d help of ur resourcefulness and creativity, u can create amazing outputs with simple/basic gears…

  6. Lightbender Avatar
    Lightbender

    Yea, but it’s pretty much only good for

    dramatic shots. In all the pictures, the shadow is way too harsh.

  7. Ricardo Correia Avatar
    Ricardo Correia
  8. Mark Bolton Photo Avatar
    Mark Bolton Photo

    great stuff… we all get too worried about kit, and actually its all about the know how really!

  9. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    I prefer the roundness of a diffused umbrella or a small umbrella octabox …. like the apollo.
    thanks for the tips … very cool reminder that one light is all you need to study composition and direction of light.

  10. Louis Mesa Avatar
    Louis Mesa

    From the first I saw the photo, I felt like the woman is a Filipina. And I was right. =)
    Thanks for this great article you’ve shared with us.

  11. Pashminu Mansukhani Avatar
    Pashminu Mansukhani

    Good set of examples.